Cutaway Guitar vs Non Cutaway Guitar: Which Is Right for You?

Published Categorized as Guitar selection

Whether you go for an acoustic guitar with a cutaway or a non-cutaway will depend on a few things.

There are advantages and disadvantages to cutaway guitars and regular guitars. What you go with will depend on a couple of things:

  • How much you need to reach the upper frets
  • Your tone preferences
  • What you use your guitar for
cutaway vs regular guitar

Table of Contents

What is the Cutaway For?

Reaching the Upper Frets

If you play often in the upper frets of the guitar then it’s a good idea to get a guitar with a cutaway – to make those frets easier to access.

If you don’t tend to use those frets – maybe you are more of a rhythm guitarist – or if you want a certain guitar that you use for playing solely rhythm guitar – then you won’t need a cutaway.

Fullness of Sound

Though some debate this, a guitar without a cutaway has a fuller sound.

To my ear this is definitely the case.

So if you don’t need to access the upper frets, and like a fuller sounding acoustic guitar, then getting a guitar without a cutaway is probably the best option.

That’s not to say that you’ll definitely want that fuller sound – some prefer the sound of a cutaway guitar. So accessing of the upper frets isn’t the only reason to get a guitar with a cutaway.

The Sound Difference

Guitars without a cutaway tend to have better bass and better volume and have an overall fuller sound.

Guitars with a cutaway tend to be more treble heavy sound, and produce a slightly brighter sound – all else being equal.

Which sound you prefer will depend on your own tastes. Some people find the sound of a cutaway guitar to be more balanced. Whilst others find the sound with a cutaway to be too bright.

Check out the video below to see what you think of the difference. The two guitars in the video are identical guitars, except that one has a cutaway and the other doesn’t.

Do you notice the difference?

Electric-Acoustic Guitars

Generally speaking, electric-acoustic guitars have a cutaway. This isn’t always the case but it’s more often the case than not.

The main reason for this is that the fullness of sound is less of a consideration when the guitar is plugged in. EQs and the like mean that you can boost the bass and adjust the sound anyway you want.

This means having a cutaway is fine sound-wise (even if you prefer the fuller sound) and you get the advantage of being able to access the upper frets more easily.

Which Guitar should You Choose?

That all depends on what you are using the acoustic guitars for.

If you never play in the upper frets and don’t think you will be any time soon – then you’ll need to think about whether you would prefer the sound of a cutaway or a non-cutaway.

If you play on stage a lot and barely play unplugged then a cutaway is probably your best option. Even if you don’t access the upper frets that often or at all. Going for a cutaway will give you more options for a guitar with on board electronics.

If you do want to play unplugged sometimes but also want to play plugged in then you’ll need to consider the sound you prefer when your guitar is unplugged. If you prefer the non-cutaway sound then you will want to look for a non-cutaway with electronics. If you can’t find one that you like you can always have electronics installed (but it will be an extra cost).

cutaway guitar

Answering Some Questions About the Cutaway Guitar

What Matters Most in an Acoustic Guitar? Design or Tonewoods?

A good acoustic guitar is the product of balance. It needs to be made of suitable materials, well designed, and crafted to perfection by an experienced luthier, but out of materials and design, which matters the most?

I’d consider design to be far more important to an acoustic guitar than tonewood. While some woods are more resonant than others, the difference in tone will be fairly negligible to the ear. And even if the tone or sustain is noticeably different, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, only…unique.

Design is more important than wood. This is because, without adequate design, you’ll be hard-pressed to make a sound at all. An acoustic guitar could be made out of polymer plastic, designed well, and will still sound pleasant.

So, while using quality tonewoods in guitar construction definitely does change its tonal pallet, it’s not as essential as design. That said, ideally, you won’t have to sacrifice one for the other.

Do Bigger Strings Really Make for a Louder Acoustic Guitar?

it’s commonly thought that increasing the gauge of an acoustic guitar’s strings will amount to a louder overall volume, and hypothetically, that does make some sense. A heavier string has the same tension as a lighter string, but due to its weight, has the potential to gain more momentum, passing more vibrations through the top of the guitar.

So, what’s the problem?

Well, the problem is that it’s the momentum of the string that vibrates the guitar top and resonance chamber. And momentum isn’t only enhanced by tension and weight, but flexibility too.

The heavier strings are, the more rigid they become, reducing momentum, surface vibration, and ultimately, amplitude.

Having said that, if a player overcomes this stiffness, say, with more aggressive picking, it is possible that a heavier gauge string will produce a louder volume. But keep in mind that it’s not the weight of strings alone that matters.

Action, setup, and guitar design all play their role. Matching your guitar with a string type that suits its build will add more volume than fitting bigger strings.

Thanks for Reading!

I hope this has helped you to decide whether a cutaway or a non-cutaway guitar is right for you.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

Other comparison posts:

FAQs

What is the cutaway on a guitar?

The cutaway design makes it easier to access the upper frets on your guitar.

What is the benefit of a cutaway guitar?

This design feature is especially beneficial for guitarists who frequently play solos, lead lines, or chords in the upper register.

Is a cutaway guitar better?

Certain genres, such as jazz or lead guitar-oriented styles, often require playing in the upper frets. Cutaway guitars can be advantageous in these situations, as it facilitates smooth transitions to higher positions.

Should a beginner buy a cutaway guitar?

If you foresee yourself playing a lot in the higher frets, such as learning lead guitar techniques or playing melodies in the upper register, then cutaway guitars can make it easier to access those frets. It can enhance your playing experience and provide more versatility. Cutaway guitars can also be more comfortable for beginners with smaller hands or shorter arms. The reduced body size can improve your overall playing comfort and reduce hand strain.

What is the disadvantage of a cutaway guitar?

It arguably creates a less full sound compared to a non-cutaway guitar. The difference is minimal, but to the trained ear, there is a difference.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

5 comments

  1. Very informative information! I am needing to replace my outdated guitar, and your website has given me a lot of things to consider. I really appreciate your website.

    1. Hey Shari.

      That really means a lot – I am very grateful for you taking the time out of your own schedule to let us know how you feel. Hopefully, your new instrument is worthy of such praise.

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Nate.

  2. Like many have said a lot depends on personal taste. For me, the fuller sound of a non-cutaway is a big deal. But in my studio, I have both. The cutaways are all amplified – and the acoustics can be used with or without an amp. I find that the amp allows me to make a lot of corrections to get the sound I want by the time I hear it. But with an acoustic-only, the non-cutaway is my main preference. As an example, I enjoy a Yamaha Classic nylon cutaway with a built-in mic and onboard equalizer and when paired with an all-valve amp (Marshall DSL 40 in my case) the sound is sweet, full, and mellow. If I could play as well as you nobody would care one way or the other.

    1. Hey William.

      That’s awfully kind of you to say and for you to share your expertise – you really seem to know your stuff. As with anything, there are gradations to it, and any answer in favor of cutaway and/or non-cutaway will come with several tangential inquiries, something you capture perfectly in your discourse here.

      Nate.

  3. Hi. Can I ask? If design of a guitar is more important than tonewood, so can I say that a jumbo guitar sounds better than a dreadnought, even if the dreadnought’s wood is slightly better than the jumbo’s? I mean does the jumbo produce louder and fuller sound? Thank you.

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